Struggling to climb out of the jobs hole

@CNNMoney August 11, 2011: 12:44 PM ET
Some states have to create even more jobs to keep up with population growth. California needs nearly 2 million jobs to get back to pre-recession employment level.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Jobs may be coming back in many states ... but don't let it fool you.

Most of them still have a long way to go to recover from the recession, especially when factoring in the number of job seekers flocking to those places.

California, for instance, needs to create 1.8 million jobs to keep up with its population growth, according to figures crunched by the Economic Policy Institute for CNNMoney. That's 11.2% more positions than there are today.

To come up with its jobs deficit figures, the institute calculated how many positions would have to be created in a state to get back to pre-recession levels, taking into account the growth in the working-age population.

The Golden State, despite its deep economic troubles, has seen this group expand by more than a million people since the recession began in December 2007. That places additional pressure on the state, where the unemployment rate is still 11.8%, the second highest in the nation.

Because of unemployed workers migrating to find work and the steep competition for jobs in those hot areas, even states that are doing well can still end up with a large "jobs deficit."

Texas Governor Rick Perry is very proud of the state's job creation efforts. His office set up a website titled "Texas Brags" to herald Texas' "ongoing success and endless opportunity."

Over the past two years, 40% of the new jobs in the U.S. were created in Texas, Perry told attendees at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit in San Antonio Wednesday. It's one of only three states to have more jobs now than before the recession.

What's the jobs hole in your state?

But Texas has also seen a population boom since 2007. The number of working age residents grew by 6.6%, nearly twice the national average.

This explosive growth means that Texas would need to create another 629,000 jobs, or 5.6% more positions, just to reach its pre-recession employment level, when factoring in this population growth, according to the institute.

Perry's office acknowledges that the state has to create even more jobs since people are flocking to the state in search of work. It will continue to focus on luring companies with its business-friendly policies.

"It's not surprising that companies, individuals and families are looking to Texas," said Lucy Nashed, a governor's spokeswoman. "It's the epicenter of job growth in the U.S."

Having a relatively low unemployment rate doesn't mean that a state has no jobs deficit.

Take Utah, for example. The state's unemployment rate is 7.4%, far below the nation's. But it has the 8th largest jobs deficit, and needs to create 10.9% more jobs in order to climb out.

That's because the Beehive State has seen its working age population grow by 6.7%. Much of that increase is due to children entering the labor force, though some is migration into the state, said Pamela Perlich, senior research economist, Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah.

"When you have more labor force entrants, it gives you more of a challenge," Perlich said.

Only one state in the nation is actually doing better than it was before the recession and has no jobs deficit, when factoring in population growth. Not surprisingly, it's North Dakota, which at 3.2% has the lowest unemployment rate by far.

North Dakota has created 18,100 more jobs than it needs to keep up with its expanding labor force, which grew slightly faster than the U.S. population.

There are jobs to be had in many sectors, including energy, agriculture, health care and transportation, said Michael Ziesch, research analyst with Job Service North Dakota, the state's employment services department. Right now, there are 14,580 open positions.

Ziesch knows that North Dakota's secret as a jobs powerhouse is out. Nearly every day, he gets a call or an email from an out-of-state resident asking about the opportunities there.

"We are becoming a destination state," he said. To top of page

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